Israel has cited its coronavirus quarantine orders to prevent German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas from visiting the West Bank during his Middle East tour next week, three sources confirmed to Haaretz. Instead, he will meet Palestinian officials over video conference.
Maas is expected to arrive in Israel on Wednesday and sought to visit Ramallah following his visit in Israel. Citing coronavirus restrictions, Israel said that if Maas enters the West Bank he will be required to enter a two-week quarantine when he reenters Israel on the way to Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Maas is set to land in Israel on Wednesday and meet with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and other Israeli officials. In the afternoon, he will hold a video call with Palestinian officials, and in the evening will depart to Jordan.
Although the official purpose of the visit by Maas is to become acquainted with his new Israeli counterpart, he is also expected to ask Israel to avoid putting Germany in a difficult position by pushing ahead with its intentions to annex lands in the West Bank.
According to sources within the ministry, Israel's intent to annex West Bank settlements is a grave concern for Germany, which seeks to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians and prevent a violent escalation in the region.
Germany is a key ally of Israel in international organizations, but is also a staunt defender of international law institutions.
As reported in Haaretz Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declarations that annexation will be promoted on July 1, in less than one month, have put Berlin in a major quandary. On July 1, Germany will be taking over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and will be assuming the presidency of the UN Security Council. These two roles will require the Germans to choose between their allegiance to international law and UN resolutions on the one hand, and their historical commitment to Israel on the other.
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In late May, Germany and the Palestinian Authority released a joint statement expressing "grave concern" over Israel's declared intention to begin annexing parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.